The false economics of second hand tyres

In these frugal times hard-pressed folks are constantly on the lookout for savings and value. However, saving money does not always equate to getting good value.
Some products, the sort that keep you from the cold hard ground for example, should not be skimped on. Shoes and beds for example are important enough to buy new. Tyres are arguably even more important in that regard.
And yet a permissive attitude towards second hand tyres prevails in Ireland, one that suggests they somehow represent good value for money. This is patently not true. Not only is this practice a false economy. The attitude that accompanies it is misinformed and dangerous.
Firstly, we need to understand that the tyre industry in Ireland is so badly regulated that anyone can simply open and trade. No training is required. No knowledge is needed. You can even get a government grant to help you on your way. The result of this barely regulated approach? Vendors of second hand tyres sold in Ireland are not legally bound to test for possible dangers.
Compare this with Germany. Clearly defined and enforced laws, coupled with two contrasting seasons requiring two sets of tyres has created a culture whereby drivers will not accept second hand tyres. These tyres, and others from European countries with similarly strict regulations, are often unloaded onto us Irish due to our permissive attitudes and willingness to buy second hand.
The dangers were starkly reflected in a 2012 report which revealed that 51 percent of second-hand tyres were dangerous or deemed not fit for purpose. That same report also revealed that 55 percent would warrant an NCT ‘advisory warning’. The report found that, in most cases, the tyres had been used by central and northern European motorists where conditions are considerably harsher. The Road Safety Authority backed the report and advised motorists against buying second hand tyres.
In October of 2013 AA Rescue issued a statement which claimed that there has been a surge in callouts for blowouts due to the fact that many motorists were “driving on tyres so worn out that they were bound to burst”. They estimated that as many as one in 10 drivers had experienced a blowout in the past four years, while a survey of 16,000 motorists showed that more than half regularly encounter tyre debris on roads.
Most drivers don’t even know the legal limit for minimum tread depth on tyres. While the legal-limit is 1.6mm, the general consensus is that thread depth should be checked frequently once it reaches 3mm, and replaced when it wears below 2mm (especially during autumn and winter months).
In terms of the savings garnered from purchasing second hand tyres, the reality is that they are merely short term. The rapid deterioration of stopping distance after a tyre has reached a minimum tread of 3mm means is stark.
A typical part-worn tyre has between 2-3mm of tread remaining, due to the fact that tyres must be legally changed in France and Germany once they reach that minimum. The undisputed fact is that these part-worn tyres won’t last for long – maybe somewhere in the region of 3000-4000 miles – before they are deemed illegal here.
So where does attempting to save a little bit of money leave you? It potentially leaves you with three penalty points on your license. That could be considered getting off lightly, because your chances of crashing on a wet road if you are forced to brake suddenly are increased significantly.
In most of the cases, used car tyres are actually overpriced. If a typical second hand tyre has 3mm depth, that equates to just 1.4mm of usage before it must be legally binned. Now if such a tyre is generally priced between €30 and €40 it would need to outperform a new tyre to be considered good value. However, a €100 euro new tyre with a thread depth of 7mm will last at least four times as long as one with 3mm. And that’s without even factoring in the need to pay for the fitting of four tyres in the case of second hand purchases. In other words, there is no saving to be had.
Consumers buy them believing they are getting a good deal, when in reality they don’t know their usage history and can’t see any internal damage. New car tyres on the other hand are proven to handle significantly better, have passed rigorous and heavily regulated safety checks and let you enjoy a better ride. You’re not only buying new tyres – you’re buying safety and peace of mind.

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Mountain climbing in slippers or winter tyres

You don’t need the roads covered with snow and ice to benefit from winter tyres. Winter tyres certainly come into there own with snow, slush and icy roads but that’s not the only time you benefit. When temperatures are low, Winter tyres also give better grip and traction on wet roads with their asymmetric tread pattern better designed to give more bite. Put simply, would you prefer to climb a mountain in a pair of slippers or with a chunky soled hiking boot?

Standard tyres are produced with a different rubber compound and perform better during warm climates but when temperatures drop below 7˚C they are greatly surpassed by the silica base mix on winter tyres which ensures that they remain soft in the colder temperatures.

With snowfall practically guaranteed again this year and the normal seasonal low temperatures in Ireland, October to March are the recommended months to drive on winter tyres.

Tyre retailers in Ireland have yet to experience a consistency and market to economically justify fully catering for the panic demand and are hampered by availability when the demand is high. As with all commodities, when they are scarce and in demand, the supply chain prices increase.

So the choice is left with you. If you decide on winter tyres this year, I advise you act early and pre-book them.

The downside of course is the cost of changing and storing the tyres when not in use. This begs the question, how would winter tyres perform during warm summer months? With summer tyres of comparable quality, wet cornering and breaking would be better by approximately 10% and as much as 15-20% in dry breaking so it makes sense to change back to a rubber compound more suited to the warm conditions.

Whatever you decide, please drive carefully this winter and always remember that other road users may not be as well prepared as you.

Should you have any further questions on tyres or indeed technical car issues, then simply ask. I would be happy to help.

Reduce your vehicle running costs.

With the cost of fuel at record highs and still on an upward spiral, it has never been so important to apply some simple rules to increase the fuel economy of your vehicle.

Wheel alignment or otherwise known as tracking can be summarised as having all four wheels running in the correct direction. There are many reasons for your tracking to go out of line, the most common to be hitting a kerb or a pothole or driving over a speed ramp.

Typical symptoms of a car that is out of alignment are uneven or rapid tyre wear, pulling or drifting away from a straight line, wandering on a straight level road or the spokes of the steering wheel being off to one side while driving in a straight line.

Proper aligned wheels mean the cars rolling resistance is minimised resulting in the vehicle significantly improving its fuel consumption. It also insures your tyres will wear evenly and avoid scrubbing the side treads away, giving your tyres maximum life.

Tyre pressures need to be checked and topped up regularly as they naturally leak and deflate by a minimum of one pound of pressure per month. When at their optimum pressure, tyres roll most easily and hence require less energy from the vehicles engine, so it burns less fuel. Worth noting also is that the recommended tyre pressures for all vehicles are for cold tyres and the air in your tyre expands when hot. So if you have driven more that two miles to a garage to pump them you will need to add four pounds to the recommended pressure to adjust for the expansion.

All tyres on the same axle should be from the same manufacturer and have the same tread pattern to insure safe handling and reduce rolling resistance. Leading tyre manufacturers balance the quality of their tyres between giving the best grip whilst having the least rolling resistance and road noise. Tyres are not simply black and round and as the only part of your car that is touching the road whilst carrying the load of the vehicle, it is worth noting that there is a vast difference between a “Quality” and a “Budget” tyre.

There are many fuel additives on the market today. Some will increase your power and some will clean your fuel system but there are also products that will increase your cars fuel mileage such as Dipetane, which is produced in Ireland. By simply adding Dipetane to your fuel it will improve your fuel economy by as much as 10%.

Oil breaks down and loses its effectiveness whilst cooling and lubricating your cars engine and therefore it is important to replace it regularly. A poorly lubricated engine increases heat and the friction of parts and will do irreversible damage. This then results in your engine needing to work harder and so will forever burn more fuel.

To avoid the cost of servicing your vehicle is a false economy. Clogged filters simply lead to burning more fuel along with the fact that preventative maintenance is by far the cheaper route. Having your car running in pristine condition needs regular attention and will return the cost savings consistently.